Ward turning powerful life stories into fiction


Gabby Nelson

On Sunday, the Cozby Library and Community Commons hosted an author visit with Amanda Eyre Ward to discuss her 2015 novel, The Same Sky. Eyre lives in Austin and is the author of seven different novels.

Pramika Kadari, Copy Editor

Although Amanda Eyre Ward is now a critically acclaimed author of seven novels, she did not try to hide the bumpy road paved with failures and setbacks that got her there when she visited the Cozby Library and Community Commons on Sunday.


Born and raised in New York, Ward attended Williams College in Massachusetts, and then trained to work as a librarian, which is when she attempted to write her first novel. The manuscript was titled Between a River and a Sea, and never sold.


“It was titled that because literally nothing happened,” Ward said, laughing. “It was just a bunch of scenes between a river and a sea.”


Even after becoming a published author, her struggles did not end. For one manuscript, she revised the story dozens of times, but still ended up scrapping it.


“[The story] just didn’t work,” Ward said. “I redid it from different characters’ point of views, I went from third person to first person – I tried all of my bag of tricks. But my agent said to me, ‘Amanda, this book is just not working. You need to put it aside.’ And so I did, and I cried for a month. There is nothing more pathetic than a novelist with a failed novel and no new ideas.”


Despite the plethora of difficulties, Ward kept her feet on the road to becoming an award-winning author.


She later came across a book that told a true story of a boy who rides a train to California to find his mother; eventually, this led her to meet someone who runs a shelter for refugee kids at the country’s border. The Same Sky, her 2015 novel revolving around immigration, was inspired by stories kids at that shelter told her.


“[The kids’] stories were so incredible, and so moving, and heartbreaking,” Ward said. “And then, [that night after visiting the kids], I got the whole idea for The Same Sky. I saw the whole story come together – probably in five minutes. This is apparently something that, if you’re lucky, comes to you once in your life as a novelist.”


After wrapping up her discussion on The Same Sky, Ward walked the audience through her writing process.


“I’ll get an idea, and I sort of see the characters in various scenes,” Ward said. “I’ll tap into the magical side of my brain, and it’s like, ‘I don’t know why, but I see this character in Rome. I see this one woman in Athens.’ I have index cards where I would write ‘scene in Athens’ and elaborate. And then at some point, I turn off the magical side of my brain, and turn on the structural side. I’ll lay out all the index cards, and I’ll add in what I need. At that point, I have a complete novel, it looks like. This wonderful fantasy of a plan.”


The Same Sky was recently chosen as the Cozby Library’s Coppell Reads book, where the library will promote the novel and purchase 150 copies to hand out. Coppell resident Sherri Baxter is part of a Cozby Library book club, and is having dinner with fellow club members later this week to discuss The Same Sky.


“[At dinner], we’re going to go over the book,” Baxter said. “So we said, ‘if anyone can make it, we should go hear the author.’ I’m glad because it gave me another perspective to what she thinks, why she wrote it.”


Coppell resident Jan Loraine also heard about The Same Sky through its Coppell reads selection.


“I read the book and wanted to see the writer because I thought she must be an incredible person,” Loraine said. “I enjoyed the books, it’s a timely story. People need to be aware of these situations, they need to hear about these immigrants.”


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